If you want to visit Silk Road 2.0 then you will want to know that it was shut down by the feds on 5th November 2014 and the alleged operator “Defcon” has been arrested. The best alternative is Agora Marketplace, it actually has more listings than Silk Road 2.0. Silk Road 3.0 is ALREADY live and there will be more info about it here soon.
The anonymity that Tor brings had made it very popular with criminals who used it effectively to conduct their businesses online. Tor was a program created to create anonymity to sites online. Tor routes a person surfing in the internet through several computers making the location of sites hidden. Criminal elements have used it effectively with Silk Road been one major site. This was used by drug dealers to transact their drug businesses and avoid the face to face transactions that usually led to gun fights. However, there has been seizure of several high profile sites in the past week. There have also been 17 arrests associated with the sites leading people to wonder how the sites were uncovered.
Deepnet experts are looking for clues to uncover how the law enforcement agencies were able to decloak these hidden sites. This was even a surprise to the Tor project team. This for now remains hidden and people have to wait for explanation in court where we hope the prosecutors will explain how the people became suspects. However, views from experts claim Tor has not been cracked yet. Dr. Steven Murdoch from the University College in London claims there are still several high profile hidden markets in operation. If they had cracked Tor, they probably could have seized all the hidden markets.
The shutdown of these hidden services was named ‘Operation Onymous’ and closed down 400 pages that were owned by 27 people. Most of these sites engaged in the sale of drugs, stolen credit cards and some illegal paraphernalia. The most high-profile closure was the Silk Road 2.0website majored in selling drugs after the shutdown of the original Silk Road last year.
Possible clues on how the dark net sites were uncovered
Poor operational security
This is one major failing in running websites where owners fail in minor security details. On the Silk Road 2.0 case, it was noted that the use of email address in the site led to the owner been identified. The email address code on the email led officers to Blake Benthall who was running the site.
Bugs in web applications
Elements with a page hidden by Tor can be vulnerable to exploits and bugs. This is just like in the open internet where we have interactive features and video players which could have been quickly coded.
All those operating illegal sites must have a way through which people can pay for the services or goods offered. Bitcoin is usually the virtual currency that such people use to receive payments. The use of normal payment is much easier to trace than Bitcoins but this does not mean Bitcoin is fully safe. It does not remain anonymous with some recent research showing ways through which Bitcoins can be linked to the user’s location
Denial of service attack (DoS)
This is very theoretical but there are chances that authorities could have used it. In this method, a site is flooded with several visits with the aim of forcing traffic to get into Tor owned computers which are usually monitored by the authorities.
It will always be difficult to know how exactly the authorities were able to decloak these sites and it is very unlikely that they will share the information. This is because they could want to use it again to arrest further criminal elements using hidden sites like the emergence of Silk Road 3.0.